AI, with real smarts

“You’ll sleep better, of course, if you don’t think too deeply about how much of your personal information now lives in the corporate domain, and appreciate that your consistency is part of your charm.”

Artificial intelligence will serve us better in 2018, while reminding us that we aren’t that interesting, or that committed to maintaining our privacy.

Audience-centric use of artificial intelligence is predicated on human behavior being pattern-based and, therefore, predictive. When you wake up, what you eat for breakfast, how often you call your mom, what you watch, what you read, and where you shop all generally follow consistent patterns. Our devices — phones, tablets, computers, wearables, and smart-home gadgets; Alexa and Google Home are the “butlers” here but we have the “maids,” too, in lighting systems, vacuums, thermostats, locks and security cameras — are tracking our active and passive digital footprints, and collecting those pattern-based behavior markers.

In 2018, without us even asking, artificial intelligence will begin to serve us in surprisingly helpful ways — less surprisingly, by using all that personal information collected. That’s because connections among our devices and data will be developed, and together, they will inform truely personalized service. Butlers and maids, if you have them, should be looking for new trades.

In 2017, me: “Alexa, what’s the weather tomorrow?”

In 2018, Alexa: “It’s about to be your bedtime, would you like to know the weather tomorrow? Me: “Yes, Alexa.” Alexa: “In Chicago tomorrow, it’s going to be 34 and sunny. You might consider wearing that new down jacket you bought because you have a meeting with David downtown and will have to be at the bus stop by 8:25 in the morning. In your last meeting with David, you said you would follow-up on his request to sort the database you’ve been examining. The file you’ve been working on and want to access is in the work folder on your tablet. Be sure to charge your tablet overnight. Should be a good meeting. Sleep well.”

You’ll sleep better, of course, if you don’t think too deeply about how much of your personal information now lives in the corporate domain, and appreciate that your consistency is part of your charm. Even down to your moods.

Your digital footprint contains your calendar and therefore, with an excellent level of predictive accuracy, artificial intelligence knows your good days and your bad ones. Meeting with the boss, bad. Payday, good. Blind date, bad. Your birthday, good. But real service stems from knowing that on the worst days — the blind dinner dates in which you start texting your friend after only minutes, looking for an exit strategy — you come home, order pizza and watch The Holiday. In 2018, as you leave the restaurant, you’ll get a push notification from Domino’s, asking if you’d like to place your usual order. You respond “yes” and begin tracking its progress. Your Lyft drops you at home, the pizza is only a few minutes away, and Netflix is already tuned to the opening credits. Convenience, it turns out, is more comforting than privacy.

“In the movies, we have leading ladies and we have the best friend,” explained Arthur Abbott (played by Eli Wallach) in The Holiday. In 2018, you’re becoming the leading lady of your own life, surrounded by all your digital friends — thoughtful, personal, and with very long memories.

Rachel Davis Mersey is an associate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

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